Will a sinking ship pull you under?

Will a sinking ship pull you under?

Will the sinking ship suction pull everything close to the hull, down with it?

If you should ever be so unfortunate to find yourself on a sinking ship, you have to get as far away as possible when the hull breaks the surface and disappears into the dark abyss. Every sailor knows this. Get away from the hull! Or she will suck you down with her…

We’ve seen it in films, we’ve read it in books. It’s just common knowledge. But it is true? Is there really such a thing as a vortex that pulls you down when the ship sinks?

The theory behind it

The theory behind the sinking ship suction is as follows: 

  • Anything moving through water does so by displacing water around it. When a large body sinks, water will rush in to fill the empty space behind it and thus create a vortex. The force of this vortex depends on the shape, size, and speed of the sinking agent.

What do those who actually have been on a sinking ship say?

When the Titanic sank, there were many tellings from first-hand eyewitnesses about what had happened. 

Eugene Daly was swimming at a safe distance from the ship. When one of the funnels went under the surface, a whirlpool opened up for a few seconds when water rushed into the boiler room. Those in the immediate area went straight down. “…those poor people that covered the water were sucked down in those funnels… like ants” 

Others who were among the last to leave the ship… Practically standing on top of it as it went down, claimed they didn’t feel any sinking ship suction at all. 

Chief Baker Charles Joughin, the last man to leave the ship, claimed it was like taking an elevator. He didn’t even get his hair wet. 

The truth about what would happen

It seems to be that the actual pulling effect isn’t what you should worry too much about. However, when a very heavy, solid, and flat object goes down it definitely creates a vacuum on top of it. If you should place a cookie on top of it, it would probably follow it to the bottom. 

sinking ship suction

But a modern ship is made for fuel efficiency and it is extremely hydrodynamic. And it goes down neither in a straight line nor very fast. Even if it went straight down, bow first, the rounded stern created specifically to NOT provoke a back-pulling vortex, would not pull very much. 

There are more theories than that one though

  • When the ship is going down, the empty space inside will fill with water. When that happens a strong current could pull you inside the hull.
  • The strong movement and the air inside the ship will mix with the seawater immediately above the sinking structure. On top of the boat, when it’s going down, that water will be less dense and less able to keep you afloat. You will fall through.

The air would be a much more deadly opponent than the sinking ship suction. And air can be very dangerous when you deal with water… When they change place, air, and water. The air rushing out of the hull and water rushing in to take its place.

Air mixing with water is another very hazardous matter. The air can create a large area of whitewater with much less density than “solid” bluewater. The ship could create a hole for a few seconds, and if you find yourself in that hole you would have to struggle to stay afloat.

Even deadlier is the water rushing in while you’re still inside trying to get out. Many deaths in modern times can be attributed to people not acting fast enough, and therefore remaining trapped inside.

Then there are many other dangers with a sinking ship. Most of them involve falling, being hit by things, and more of that sort. Or buoyant flotsam pulled down with the sinking ship. When it breaks loose under water, it becomes a missile thrusting upward.

sinking ship
Courtesy of John Ferguson

So what should you do?

  • Get acquainted with the ship BEFORE you start off. Check where the floating devices are, check escape routes, and look for meeting points. Studies on people’s behavior in an emergency situation show that only 15% can stay calm and rational. Most people panic.
  • Listen to and follow instructions from the crew. The international evacuation signal is Seven short blasts and one long.
  • Only attempt to escape on your own if there is no authority present to give directions. (An old sailors-tip: Follow the rats if you see them. They will find the way out.)
  • If you can’t hear instructions or the crew isn’t helping, head up and off the ship. Never go down or inward. Try to reach the outside of the ship. 
  •  Do not take elevators or escalators.
  •  To find the way to the lifeboats, look for crews assisting passengers.

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No, a modern ship does not create very much of a sucking effect. when it sinks. There are many other reasons why someone could be pulled down with a sinking ship, though. And the biggest danger by far is not getting out fast enough. 



Did Newton get the idea of the law of gravity, when, sitting under a tree, he was hit on the head by a falling apple?

Did Newton get the idea of the law of gravity, when, sitting under a tree, he was hit on the head by a falling apple?

newton's law of gravity

Isaac Newton’s apple story

Sir Isaac Newton was born in Lincolnshire in east England on January 4, 1643. He was a mathematician, a physicist, an astronomer, and a theologian. He was one of the most famous researchers of his time and is regarded as one of the most influential scientists of all time.

In 1687 he came out with his book Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica (Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy). In it, he used mathematic formulas to explain the motions of objects in space. He showed how to apply the same mathematical principles on various bodies on earth, he calculated trajectories of comets, the rise, and fall of the tide, and he formulated the Law of Gravity. He laid the foundation of Classical Mechanics.  

Newton’s law of gravity

Newton’s law of gravity explained the force of attraction between two objects. He did not, however, discover gravity. The fact that bodies attract each other had been discussed among scientists before Newton. What Newton did was demonstrate the exactness of the inverse-square law of attraction through mathematical calculations. 

This is how it works:

Newton's law of gravity

Every point mass attracts every single other point mass by a force acting along the line intersecting both points. The force is proportional to the product of the two masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them.

Newton’s apple story

The Newton’s-apple story originates from when he was already a well-established scientist, and it exists in many versions. The occasion should have been when Newton, due to an outbreak of the Bubonic plague in 1666, had to leave Cambridge (where he was studying at Trinity College) and return to his mother’s house in Lincolnshire. 

It’s obvious that Newton liked the story and told it often to entertain and amuse his friends. The fact that it contains a falling fruit that is round, explains very well the idea of attraction between bodies. The earth attracts the apple and the apple attracts the earth.

newton's law of gravity

The Apple is also a mythical and religious symbol. As Newton had a very intimate relationship with the Holy Bible, he would use an object that refers to originality and maybe even wisdom… The forbidden fruit in Eden. 

What we know is that Isaac Newton told the story to his friends, but we have no idea if it is true.

And Newton’s apple story never actually included an apple bonking him on the dome. He mostly told that he saw it falling. As in the book “Memoirs of Sir Isaac Newton” by William Stukeley… 

After dinner, the weather being warm, we went into the garden, & drank tea under the shade of some apple trees… he told me, he was just in the same situation, as when formerly, the notion of gravitation came into his mind. Why should that apple always descend perpendicularly to the ground, thought he to himself; occasioned by the fall of an apple, as he sat in a contemplative mood

Newton’s law of gravity, was it really such a revolutionary discovery?

As mentioned before, it was probably not a Eureka experience. It was not like Isaac Newton is sitting under the tree and suddenly he understands that we don’t fall off the earth because there was such a thing as gravity. He was a scientist and he did scientific calculations about things around him. 

newton's law of gravity

When Newton’s book, Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica (or “the Principia” in short), was published on July 5, 1687, Robert Hook, a fellow English scientist and member of the council at Royal Society, claimed that it was he who had given Newton the idea of the inverse-square law. But this is highly unlikely.

Surely the inverse-square law had been discussed. But not only with Hook. Newton acknowledged the works of quite a few other scientists in the foreword to the book. 

Robert Hook was also known as a rather unpleasant man. Arthur Berry writes about him in his book, A short History of Astronomy...Hooke claimed credit for most of the scientific discoveries of the time.”

Still, Newton’s principles of gravity were without parallels in science at the time. He became one of the most important scientists ever. And together with a few others like Einstein, Galilei, da Vince, Tesla, one of the most famous.

What remains is that it was Newton who mathematically described and explained the one single natural law that keeps us all together. The law of attraction between bodies. 

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Yes and no. We can not know if he was hit on the head or if he just saw the apple. We do not know if it was an apple or another fruit, or something else altogether… Or if nothing fell at all. But it’s a very good story. 

Stars in the universe
Courtesy of Jônatas Cunha



The Independent / Newton’s apple

History channel / Did an apple really fall on Isaac Newton’s head?

Wikipedia / Newton’s law of universal gravitation

Do ostriches bury their heads in the sand? 

Do ostriches bury their heads in the sand? 

bury the head in the sand

The “Ostrich head in sand” myth.

Head in sand or Putting your head in the sand supposedly comes from Ostriches’ habit to bury the head in the sand when danger occurs. But do they really do that? Isn’t that stupid? Well, birds are not always very smart, and ostriches are among the least intelligent so maybe they really could do something that irrational. But first, let’s look at the nature of this amazing bird.

The Ostrich

The Ostrich is the largest bird on the planet. It can weigh up to 350 pounds and reach up to 9 feet in height. It’s also one of the oldest bird species still around today. Ostrich-like birds existed already 60 million years ago. 

The various Ostrich species live in Africa, north, and south of the Equatorial rainforest area, where they occur in a wide range of different open habitats.

It’s a very powerful animal adapted to life on the large open spaces of the African Savanna. Its strong and muscular legs can run at a maximum of 43 mph (70 km/h). It can keep a slower pace of 30 mph (50km/h) for hours. 

Ostriches actually don’t need to bury their head in the sand.

The Ostrich is in no way defenseless. The big predators of the African continent are a constant threat to the grasseaters. Every Gnu, Gazelle, or Antilope needs to have a defense strategy, and the Ostrich is no exception. 

ostrich head in sand
Courtesy of Jason Rojas

First of all, it can run. It has extremely good eyesight so it spots the enemy from kilometers away. And even though it can’t outrun a cheetah or even a lion, its extraordinary stamina makes it difficult prey for wild dogs and hyenas. 

Then if it is caught, it still has a fair chance to get a kick in from its powerful legs. The two-toed foot is equipped with a 4-inch long claw. A kick from an ostrich can kill a lion.  

The Ostrich buries its head in the sand – What does it mean?

To bury the head in the sand is an expression that comes from the ostrich’s supposed habit of just sticking the head into the ground if danger approaches. It’s sometimes attached to an idea that the ostrich connects what it sees with what the seeing agent sees. “If I don’t see the Lion, the lion doesn’t see me”.

The metaphoric meaning is someone who avoids confrontation or even avoids doing anything when facing a problem. Sticking your head in the sand is not being able to face reality… Pretending that the issue isn’t there. It is an attribute for not acting at all when some sort of intervening is necessary… To hide and not face the obstacle or the difficulty.  

Why is the myth about ostriches false?

The whole idea from a naturalistic, self-preservation point of view is absolute nonsense. To be able to stick the head into the ground, it would have to be soft soil, desert sand, runny, and dry. The African savannah is hard and flat, and burying anything is difficult and time-consuming. It’s not for defense. Then, if you stick your head under the ground, you’re left without vision and without mobility, as well as without air. It would be an utterly stupid thing to do.

Where does the “ostrich head in sand” myth come from?

ostrich head in sand

The myth could originate from Ostrich’s defense behavior in certain situations. During the mating season, the male makes a shallow pit on the ground. He then tries to attract the females to lay their eggs there. The alpha male and alpha female incubate the eggs for around 40 days.

They have to turn the eggs periodically, and often they keep adjusting and moving the eggs around. From a distance, as the ostrich stands in a shallow pit, it can seem like the head is under the sand.

What does the ostrich do if he’s attacked during nesting?

If attacked during this period the Ostrich may just lie down in the nest instead of running away, to protect the eggs. Stretching the head and neck as close as possible to the bottom of the nest could give the illusion that he/she is actually hiding the head in the sand.

Another plausible explanation for the “head in the sand” phenomenon could be that the head of the Ostrich is very small, compared to the body. It would be enough that the huge bird eats something from the ground, and it could easily seem like it’s sticking its head down into the soil.  

Still, Ostriches do have some strange features.

As said before, the Ostrich is not very bright. The brain is as big as a walnut. And they can be quite aggressive and establish territory. That is good to know if you would try to keep them at your farm. So, if you have to face the ostrich and approach it for any reason, bring a broom or a rake or anything else that is long. Keep it straight up and the Ostrich will think that you’re taller than him and leave you in peace. 

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No, Ostriches do not stick their heads in the sand if danger occurs. Though not very intelligent birds, they’re not that stupid.





Did the German, French, and British troops on the western front in 1914 join in a spontaneous ceasefire directly on the battlefield to celebrate Christmas?

Did the German, French, and British troops on the western front in 1914 join in a spontaneous ceasefire directly on the battlefield to celebrate Christmas?

christmas truce of 1914

World War I

The truce at Christmas 1914

The first World War lasted from 28 July 1914 to 11 November 1918. It was one of the largest and deadliest conflicts in human history. Almost 70.000.000 soldiers were engaged. At the end of the war, more than 19 countries were directly involved in military action, but many more were affected. 

Around 10 million soldiers died. To that is added the death of around 8 million civilians. At the end of the war and immediately after, the Spanish flu caused millions of casualties around the globe. The worldwide spreading of the disease could largely be blamed on the war. Soldiers living close together, under unhealthy conditions, staying in field hospitals, and then being transferred home or back to the front. The Spanish flu caused between 17 and 100 million deaths worldwide. 

The War of the Trenches

World War I was in many locations a war of the trenches. In continental Europe. especially on the western front, in northern France, the battles were fought dug in. At the beginning of the 20th century, the firepower of the artillery had reached modern warfare capacity. But the mobility of the military units had not. They had cannons, but no tanks. Because of this, the defense was much more efficient than the attack. 

The trenches between the German, French and British armed forces were heavily armed, dug deep, and reinforced by concrete and barbed wire. 

World War 1 war of the trenches

The area between two such trench lines was exposed and full of mines. This made warfare extremely static. The fronts were fixed and the battles went on for months, even years, without any side gaining terrain.

In the trenches, the conditions were often disastrous. It was wet, cold, and otherwise very unhealthy with diseases and malnutrition. In fact, in the first months in many regiments, there were more deaths caused by gangrene, trench foot, and frost than from enemy fire.  

Chemical warfare

The war was also a breeding ground for new ways to kill. Chemical warfare was developed and in the very static positions in the trenches, gas was something many military leaders put great hope in. But for various reasons, it never changed the way war was fought.

Launching sufficient quantities and gaining a concentration at enemy lines enough for it to be lethal, was all very difficult. In fact, the gas was not at all as efficient as first believed, and it wasn’t until the infamous Mustard-gas was introduced in late 1915, that it started to be of any concern at all. In 1914 no gas attacks had yet been successful. 

The truce at Christmas 1914 – The background.

  • In the first period of the war, the hostility between the Germans and the Allies hadn’t yet become as bitter as it would develop, later on in the war. 
  • The soldiers were to a large degree volunteers who had been promised that the war should be over by Christmas. 
  • At the end of 1914, it was evident that it would last much longer, and that this was just the beginning. There could have been second thoughts about why they had enrolled in the first place.
  • Although the superiors tried to maintain the morale, the men often got reluctant to see the enemy as evil. The desperate situation provoked resignation rather than aggression. 
  • Many British soldiers didn’t regard the Germans with as much aversion as did the French. The truce was more frequent between the Germans and the British than between the Germans and the French. 
  • The war in the trenches slowly turned into a job-like activity. No man can fight 24/7, so the fighting needed a schedule, start and stop times, pauses, etc

How was it possible?

christmas truce of 1914

Already in November, there had been occasions where the soldiers stopped fighting. F.ex. in some locations the soldiers stopped shooting for a period after nightfall. This was the time when food rations were distributed and it was a mutual agreement that everybody should be able to at least eat in peace. Sometimes they agreed on letting the soldiers get out of the trenches to pick up their dead and bring them back for a short funeral. 

These accords happened every now and then. Between the French and the Germans, the tension was stronger but even they sometimes tried to get along in these matters. And not only in the west but also between the Russians and the Hungary-Austrians there were spontaneous truces. 

As the army lines were reasonably close. Being defended by the trench and heavily dug in, the soldiers could speak to one another. News, sports-results, and even singing were shared across the front line.  

Where and when did it happen?

In fact, in some locations, the truce at Christmas 1914 started out as a concert. Allied soldiers heard the Germans singing their Christmas songs. The Christmas trees were lit. This was at the time a tradition that was not widely spread in Britain and the British soldiers ventured out of the trenches to get a look and to hear the singing. 

The Truce at Christmas 1914 was a mutual, spontaneous ceasefire. The soldiers traded cigarettes, food, alcohol, and souvenirs. British soldiers narrated that they cut off buttons from the German uniforms as a token. They sang together and talked about their homes and their loved ones. There are even stories about football games between the Germans and the British. In many locations, it was also a possibility for bringing back the dead from the battlefields. 

In some places, it was just a ceasefire but without encountering. The soldiers just stopped shooting during the holiday. 

What happened was a phenomenon of 1914 and only 1914. Already in 1915 the bitterness and hostility between the armies didn’t permit ceasefires to the same extent. In some locations at the front tentatives were made to do something similar. The officers on both sides had gotten strict orders to prevent any repeat of the previous Christmas’ event, though.

Around 100.000 soldiers participated in the truce at Christmas 1914. 

What can we learn from spontaneous peace like the one in 1914?

The truce at Christmas 1914 wasn’t unique. All through the war agreements were made here and there between fighting soldiers. Often just to be able to bury the dead or to rest for an hour or two from the obscenities of the war. In spring 1915 a spontaneous truce was held between Bulgarians and Greeks, as well as between Australians and Turks. 

And in many other wars, these very small windows of fraternization have occurred. It’s as if we in front of the really big issues in life, the questions about life and death, learn something, and can see the very existence for what it is. The too young men in the trenches understood the issue, that we often have such difficulty grasping… That the real enemy is War itself.

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Yes, At Christmas 1914 many soldiers on the western front, joined in a spontaneous ceasefire and celebrated Christmas together, trading souvenirs, tobacco, alcohol, and singing songs.

christmas truce of 1914



Were the ten commandments written by the Lord and handed down to Moses on Mount Sinai?

Were the ten commandments written by the Lord and handed down to Moses on Mount Sinai?

who wrote the ten commandments


Debating the Bible is an extremely difficult and delicate task. And the 10 commandments in the Bible are the dogma. The Bible is by far the most read, the most translated, and, many would say, the most influential book there is. It is the foundation for Christianity, and the original form of the old testament, Tanakh, is the foundation for Hebraism. Even Islam is largely based on the biblical tradition.

Still, we have to regard it as mostly non-historical, as there are very few historical facts outside the Bible itself to support its accuracy.

Who wrote the ten commandments?

Most modern scholars believe that Moses is a mythological figure and didn’t actually exist in real life. The consensus is also that the Exodus never happened or at least not in the way it is described in the Bible and not from Egypt. 

So, we have to discuss the ten commandments strictly from a biblical point of view, the actual writings in the Bible. And here we find other difficulties… What’s been added, what’s been taken away, what’s been modified, and what has been lost in translation. I am going to use the King James Bible as it is regarded by most scholars as authoritative.   

What are the 10 commandments in the Bible?

The law of the Lord
Photo Museum Catharijneconvent Utrecht; Ruben de Heer

The 10 commandments in the Bible are ten rules or guidelines for the Hebrew people, later also for Christians. They represent the essence of how to live in accordance with the will of God. The fact that they are ten could be symbolic as the number 10 could represent Divine authority, obedience, etc. The commandments are not numbered in the Bible. Although in some other texts they are organized in 10 distinct spaces. The number ten is mentioned in Exodus. (Exodus 34:28 …he wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant, the ten commandments.) The fact that they’re not numbered has led to many different interpretations of where one ends and the next begins.  

Apart from the story in Exodus, they are also mentioned in Deuteronomy 5. The place where the covenant was made in Deuteronomy 5 is Horeb.  It could be another location than Sinai, but probably is just another name of the same area.

Deuteronomy 27 is another passage that arguably includes the ten commandments. 

So how did they get into the hands of Moses?

In Ex. 19:20 the Lord comes down on Mount Sinai with fire and smoke. Moses walks up on the mountain. There God tells him to go down again and fetch his brother Aaron. Ex. 19:25 So Moses went down unto the people, and spake unto them. 

Then the word continuous… Ex.20:1 And God spake all these words, saying, {20:2} I [am] the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. This is the first time the ten commandments are cited: Ex. 20:3 Thou shalt have no other gods before me… 

Reading the text as it’s written, it’s clear that Moses is down at the camp when he tells his people about the commandments. When he is finished talking, the people answer him.Ex. 20:18 And all the people saw the thunderings, and the lightnings… they removed, and stood afar off. {20:19} And they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die. It is clear that Moses was among his people, referring to what God had said when he talks about the ten commandments. 

Moses walks into the darkness or up onto Mount Sinai.

who wrote the ten commandments
Courtesy of Thom Chandler

At this point, the children of Israel are very scared because there are lightnings, thunders and smoke, and even trumpets. So they ask Moses to go and talk to God but not let God talk to them, because they would all surely die. So Moses walks into the darkness where God was. 

And here follows the law. From Ex. 20:23 until Ex. 31:17. It is the Hebrew law, very detailed and complex. It is six pages in the Bible, 11 chapters, and almost 10.000 words. The Hebrew tradition sometimes regards all 613 commandments in the law as equally important and thus doesn’t refer to the commandments as ten.

At the end of it all, the Lord gives the two stone tablets to Moses Ex. 31:18 And he gave unto Moses, when he had made an end of communing with him upon mount Sinai, two tables of testimony, tables of stone, written with the finger of God.

We could assume that they were written on the stone tablets, alone or together with the law, even though the commandments were actually cited by Moses before entering the darkness where God was. 

The Golden calf.

who wrote the ten commandments

Now God tells Moses to go down to the camp because the children of Israel have already turned away from the Lord. And here’s the story about the Golden Calf. Moses in his desperation throws the stone tablets to the ground and breaks them. Ex. 32:19 …and he cast the tables out of his hands, and brake them beneath the mount. 

Moses convinces God to not kill everybody. Then God talks to Moses in the Tabernacle. He orders him to go up again to the Mountain and to bring two stone tablets, identical to the ones he destroyed so that he could write the same words as on the first two. Moses does so. 

Ex.34:1 … and I will write upon [these] tables the words that were in the first tables, which thou brakest. 

Who wrote the second set of the ten commandments?

The Lord speaks to Moses, but he doesn’t repeat the same words as in Exodus 20. This time the ten commandments are different. At the end, it says Ex. 34:28 … And he (Moses) wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant, the ten commandments.

So who wrote down the ten commandments? The first time it was God, but the second time it was Moses. 


The ten commandments in one way or the other were given to Moses by God. The writings on the first tablet could have included the ten commandments but they could also have been omitted. What’s interesting is that the commandments as we know them were destroyed. In their place, the Israelites got ten new commandments that were different from the original. Ex.34:27… And the LORD said unto Moses, Write thou these words: for after the tenor of these words I have made a covenant with thee and with Israel.

Later consensus somehow excluded the second ones and put the first set of tablets inside the Ark and hid them there. I would strongly recommend everybody to read a little from the Bible. 

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Yes, and no. The commandments were given to Moses twice and in two versions. The first time handed over to- and the second time written by Moses. The commandments that were carried in the Ark, that helped in crushing the walls of Jerico, that were kept in the temple in Jerusalem, and finally lost after the Babylonian Conquest were the second ones. 

sunrise over desert
Courtesy of John Fowler

The ten Commandments

Exodus 34:11 Observe thou that which I command thee this day: behold, I drive out before thee the Amorite, and the Canaanite, and the Hittite, and the Perizzite, and the Hivite, and the Jebusite. 

34:12 Take heed to thyself, lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land whither thou goest, lest it be for a snare in the midst of thee: 

34:13 But ye shall destroy their altars, break their images, and cut down their groves: {34:14} For thou shalt worship no other god: for the LORD, whose name [is] Jealous, [is] a jealous God: 

34:15 Lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and they go a whoring after their gods, and do sacrifice unto their gods, and [one] call thee, and thou eat of his sacrifice; 

34:16 And thou take of their daughters unto thy sons, and their daughters go a whoring after their gods, and make thy sons go a whoring after their gods. 

34:17 Thou shalt make thee no molten gods. 

34:18 The feast of unleavened bread shalt thou keep. Seven days thou shalt eat unleavened bread, as I commanded thee, in the time of the month Abib: for in the month Abib thou camest out from Egypt. 

34:19 All that openeth the matrix [is] mine; and every firstling among thy cattle, [whether] ox or sheep, [that is male. ]

34:20 But the firstling of an ass thou shalt redeem with a lamb: and if thou redeem [him] not, then shalt thou break his neck. All the firstborn of thy sons thou shalt redeem. And none shall appear before me empty. 

34:21 Six days thou shalt work, but on the seventh day thou shalt rest: in earing time and in harvest thou shalt rest. 

34:22 And thou shalt observe the feast of weeks, of the firstfruits of wheat harvest, and the feast of ingathering at the year’s end. 

34:23 Thrice in the year shall all your men children appear before the Lord GOD, the God of Israel. 

34:24 For I will cast out the nations before thee, and enlarge thy borders: neither shall any man desire thy land, when thou shalt go up to appear before the LORD thy God thrice in the year. 

34:25 Thou shalt not offer the blood of my sacrifice with leaven; neither shall the sacrifice of the feast of the passover be left unto the morning. 

34:26 The first of the firstfruits of thy land thou shalt bring unto the house of the LORD thy God. Thou shalt not seethe a kid in his mother’s milk.


34:27 And the LORD said unto Moses, Write thou
these words: for after the tenor of these words I have made a
covenant with thee and with Israel.

34:28 And he was
there with the LORD forty days and forty nights; he did
neither eat bread, nor drink water. And he wrote upon the
tables the words of the covenant, the ten commandments.



Did the Polish cavalry attack German tanks at the beginning of WW2? Was the Polish army so outdated, unprepared, and misinformed?

Did the Polish cavalry attack German tanks at the beginning of WW2? 

Was the Polish army so outdated, unprepared, and misinformed?

polish cavalry charge german tanks

Polish Cavalry WW2.

World War II started on September 1, 1939, at 4.40 am. The German Airforce, Luftwaffe, attacked the city of Wieluń, southwest of Warsaw, Poland. Five minutes later the German Battleship, Schleswig-Holstein, started firing at Westerplatte in Gdansk. Immediately after that, the Germans initiated a full-scale invasion. 1,5 million soldiers matched across the border together with 2859 tanks, 1107 airplanes, and 5805 artillery pieces. 

The Polish had a reasonably big army of 700.000 men. But just like every other European country in the late 30s, they were poorly equipped. Europe was not prepared for the German aggression in 1939. As an example, the US army could mobilize 187.000 men at the beginning of the war.

Still, the Polish army inflicted strategic losses on the German army. And they had anti-tank guns that could penetrate the armor of the lightweight German Panzer tanks. The Polish airforce, though out of date, and outnumbered, still managed to add large losses to the Luftwaffe.

As if fighting the German Wehrmacht wasn’t enough…

When the Soviet Union attacked Poland from the east, on September 17, the battle was definitely lost. The Polish commander Edward Rydz-Igmigły ordered his troops to not fight the Soviets but to retreat to Hungary and Romania. The day after the Government left the country. The resistance continued though, and it took the Germans considerable force to defeat the defenses of Warsaw. The German-Polish war didn’t end until October 5, after the battle of Kock

polish cavalry charge german tanks
Major Kazimierz Mastalerz
Photo: Narcyz Witczak Witaczyński

Poland was attacked on both sides by powerful neighbors. Then they were betrayed by the allied forces in Europe who had promised to assist them if Germany would attack. Great Britain and France did not honor that commitment.

Krojanty Cavalry charge

On the first day of the war, September 1, outside the village of Krojanty southwest of Gdansk, the 18th regiment of the Pomorska Cavalry Brigade spotted a battalion of german foot-soldiers. The Polish commander, Colonel Kazimierz Mastalerz, decided to charge the Germans with a surprise attack.

At 19 pm, Squadron-commander Eugeniusz Świeściak led two cavalry squadrons, about 250 soldiers, in an attack with a saber charge. The attack was successful and the Germans were overrun and defeated. 

Immediately after that, a German motorized infantry unit closed in from the nearby road and attacked the Poles. These were not Tanks but heavy machine gun vehicles, and they swiftly changed the outcome. 

The Poles were exposed and tried to take refuge behind a nearby small hill. About one-third of the Polish soldiers died, including the two commanders.

How it became a news story all over the world.

polish cavalry cgarge german tanks
German Panzer III

Later German correspondents together with two Italian journalists arrived. At that point, German Panzer Tanks were on site and the journalists got the impression that the Polish cavalry had charged against the tanks. One of them, Indro Montanelli, wrote an article describing the heroic Polish horse-riders attacking the impenetrable German tanks with sabers. The story, with the photos of the dead soldiers, horses, sabers, and tank tracks was frequently used in German and Soviet propaganda.  

This myth about the Polish cavalry attacking German tanks lingered on and, incredible as it may seem, is still told today in all sorts of literature in various parts of the world.

The truth is that the Polish army took the very first blow alone, and they had to single-handedly fight both Germany and the Soviet Union without any help from anybody. The exiled Polish army took part in the defense of France, the battle of Britain and the battle of the Atlantic, the invasion of Italy, and the counter-offensive in Normandie, Operation Overlord. In Poland, the Polish put up resistance during the full duration of the war and thus pinning down a significant amount of german soldiers that could have been used elsewhere. 

Ben MacIntyre, Historian, and correspondent for The Times: 

“The Polish contribution to Allied victory in the Second World War was extraordinary, perhaps even decisive, but for many years it was disgracefully played down, obscured by the politics of the Cold War.”

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No, the Polish cavalry never attacked German tanks with sabers. It would have been utterly foolish.



The Marshall Plan was an economical aid from the US to help rebuild Europe after World War II. But was it aimed at Germany?

The Marshall Plan was an economical aid from the US to help rebuild Europe after World War II. But was it aimed at Germany?

What was the Marshall Plan for
George Marshall
Courtesy of the U.S. Embassy, Den Haag

World War II

What was the Marshall Plan for?

After the second world war, most of Europe lay in ruins. Much of the industrial capacity was destroyed, and the factories that still stood up often had turned to produce material for the military. The infrastructure; streets, bridges, and railroads weren’t practicable in many places or simply didn’t exist anymore. In Germany, the destruction was bigger than elsewhere, for obvious reasons. 

To all this came a desperate lack of men, especially in Germany. Calculating casualty is a difficult task, but some historians estimate that Germany lost 40 – 50% of its male population in deaths and prisoners of war. These men were in productive age, and the ones left behind, still living were mostly youngsters and elderly. 

What was the Marshall Plan for
Courtesy of Robert Sullivan

All this together made the post-war recovery slower and weaker in Germany than in other European countries. In the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and France, by the end of 1947 production had already been restored to pre-war levels. Italy and Belgium reached pre-war levels by the end of 1948, while Germany had to wait until the end of 1949. 

The Marshall Plan was an American initiative for foreign aid to Western Europe. 

On the planning- and negotiation stage, it was supposed to be offered also to the Soviet Union, Poland, Tchekoslovakia, and other east-European countries, but after uncertainty about how much influence the US would gain over east-Europe by financially assisting them, the Soviets refused and convinced their allies to refuse as well. The Soviet Union then introduced the Molotov plan as compensation to help out their allies.  

The United States transferred over $12 billion in economic recovery programs to Western European economies. The sum equals around $125 billion in today’s value. The aim was to promote economic recovery programs in Western European economies. It operated for four years beginning on April 3, 1948.

But who was George Marshall?

George Marshall was the Army Chief of Staff of the USA from 1939 to 1945. He was the main organizer of Operation Overlord; the embarking in Normandie and the counter-offensive of the allied forces against Germany. When Marshall returned to the U.S.after the war, President Truman appointed him Secretary of State. As such he became essential for the restoration of Europe, as the suffering countries depended much on aid from allies outside of Europe. And the only powerful ally that still had its economy and industrial capacity city in reasonable order, was the USA. George C. Marshall Jr. received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1953.

But, the money went mostly to Germany, right?

Actually, it didn’t. The beneficiaries were all of the west-European countries. Even Sweden and Switzerland, which had most of their industry intact, were aided. 

Here’s a list of the countries and how much they got: 

the marshall plan

As you can see, the biggest payout went to the United Kingdom, then to France with Germany in third place. Obviously, Germany was in great need and the reasons for holding back on the country could be found in a general caution, especially from France and other European allies, in German industrial capacity and if it once again possibly could result in a military build-up.

The “level of industry” plan, signed by the Allies in 1946 put a cap on German steel production to 25% of pre-war production, on Car production to 10% of the pre-war levels, and all other heavy industry to 50% of pre-war capacity. 

So did the Marchall plan work?

It’s not easy to say what would have happened if it hadn’t been implemented. One strong reason why the USA wanted to aid their European allies, was the influence of the, geographically close by, Soviet Union. The Marshall plan was something of a shield against the communist threat, and this could be one motive why the republican controlled Congress finally voted in favor. From this point of view, it definitely worked.

Munchen 1945

Europe as a whole had incredible growth in the 50s and the 60s. There are many reasons for this, and the Marshall plan could at least have been one contributing factor. It was a crucial help in a very dark period and without it, people in many countries would have had a much harder time at the beginning of the post-war era. 

Did it help Germany?

Many think that the major motive behind the plan was to rebuild Germany specifically and make Germany the engine that could pull the whole continent towards the post-war industrial boom. The fact is, though, that Germany was strongly penalized for mainly two reasons, 

  1. The Germans were responsible for the destruction of half the world, they had killed 6 million Jews as well as Roma, Homosexuals, Communists, POWs, and more or less anyone who had a different idea about the German Reign, than them.   
  2. To the victors, Germany was a deadly threat. It had more or less single-handedly started and fought two world wars in a little more than 20 years, and it was of great importance that it would not happen again. 

Germany got less aid per capita than other European countries. In addition, the Allies continued the exploitation of German production capacity and intellectual property during the years following the end of the war. The German exportation was in the hands of the allies, and they promoted a complete change in direction from heavy industry to light industry and agriculture. The occupying countries gained huge trading advantages by selling underpriced German merchandise to themselves. 

In 1948, Germany replaced the Reichsmark with the Deutsche Mark. This reform halted rampant inflation. Together with tax reforms that same year, the German economy finally started to take off. 

All remaining restrictions were only lifted when the Allied occupation of West Germany ended on May 5, 1955.


All this boils down to the Marshall plan as an important step to rebuild Europe. But it was not aimed at Germany. Instead, the Allied victory penalized Germany in many ways during the years immediately after the war, and the part of the Marshall plan that went to Germany was inferior to that of the other countries. The reasons for the economical boom of West Germany have to be found elsewhere.  

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No, the Marshall Plan was not aimed to rebuild Germany after World War II. But it was a big help for all the western European countries, and it was thought of as a shield against the Soviet Union. It sustained the world economy after one of the greatest military conflicts, the world has ever seen.

Crime against Humanity
Courtesy of Ignaz Wald



Was the Achaemenid- or Persian Empire the biggest Empire the world has ever seen?

The biggest empire ever.

The Achaemenid, or Persian Empire, was the biggest empire in history in terms of population at its time. It stretched across three continents and included territories in Asia, Africa, and Europe. At its peak, the Achaemenid Empire ruled over 44% of the world’s population, making it the largest empire ever to exist.

biggest empire in historyThe biggest empire ever.

Human civilization arose in the Euphrat/Tigris valley. These two rivers along with a stable and healthy sun made the territory ideal for agriculture. Some of the earliest state structures and some of the biggest empires in history are from this region… Sumer, the Assyrians, the Babylonians. This was the center of the universe 5000 years ago.  

The Persians were an ancient people that migrated into the Mesopotamian region around 1000 BC, probably from the north through Kaukasus, but we do not know for certain. They formed a civilization in a part of what is today’s Iran but soon extended their borders. At the beginning of the first millennia BC, the dominant power in the region was the Assyrians. When they were defeated in 609 BC, they left space and possibilities for others to take their place. After a few decades of Median domination, in 550 BC, the Persian King Cyrus defeated them and started a territorial expansion that had, until then, never been seen. 

When the Persians ruled the world.

King Darius the great

The biggest Empire ever was the Achaemenid/Persian Empire under the rule of King Darius (550–486). It included territories of modern-day Iran, the Republic of Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, Turkey, much of the Black Sea coastal regions, northeastern Greece and southern Bulgaria, northern Greece and North Macedonia, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, and the Palestinian territories, all significant population centers of ancient Egypt as far west as Libya, Kuwait, northern Saudi Arabia, parts of the United Arab Emirates and Oman, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and much of Central Asia. It was huge.

But how do you measure greatness? 

Talking about countries and empires, there could be many ways to define what’s the greatest. The two most common are: Biggest in population, and biggest as surface. Then there’s the question of relativity… You could count in absolute numbers or you could put the numbers in context. 

As an example. The roman empire was in its time a world superpower. The Romans ruled everything, and outside of their hemisphere, there were only the outskirts, the periphery, and barbarians… At least from a European/African perspective. It held somewhere between ¼ and ⅙ of the world’s population. Still, the Roman population at its peak was smaller than that of today’s Italy.

Measuring the total population of an empire doesn’t permit a comparison between ages, between now and then, but if you put the numbers in relation to the total number of people who lived in the world at that time. In that case, the Achaemenid- or Persian Empire was the biggest Empire that ever existed.

King Darius the great

biggest empire in history
Alexander the Great

At its peak, under King Darius, it had a population of about 50 million. It was actually smaller than the Roman Empire in absolute figures. And it was even smaller than today’s Iran. But since the total world population in 500 BC was about 113 million, 50 million made up 44% of them. That is by far the highest percentage of all the world’s people that any country or empire has ever had. 

If we ask which was the biggest Empire ever, but define big in other ways, we get other results:

  • The biggest Empire ever as the total surface was the British Empire.
  • The biggest Empire ever as the total contiguous surface was the Mongol Empire.
  • The biggest Empire ever in the total population is the People’s Republic of China.

So what happened to the Persians?

A Macedonian general by the name of Alexander the Great, maybe the greatest military strategist that ever lived, conquered the biggest empire in history in 330 BC. He then never returned to Greece but stayed as the ruler of the Persians until his death in 323 BC. The once so glorious empire was then divided among his generals, his half-brother Philip Arrhidaeus, and those who promoted Alexander’s unborn child to become the next heir. Wars between the various factions emerged and so, the Achaemenid central power was shattered, and the biggest empire the world has ever seen was no more.

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There are many ways to count greatness, but the Achaemenid- or the first Persian Empire was the biggest Empire that ever existed… In terms of percentage of the world population at its time.


biggest empire in history
Apadana Palace, Persepolis. Courtesy of Orly Orlyson



Was King Richard III of England a limping hunchback?

Was King Richard III of England a limping hunchback?

the hunchback king
Courtesy of Ann Longmore-Etheridge

King Richard III of England, of the house of York, was born on October 2, 1452, and died on August 22, 1485. He was the Regent from 1483 till 1485, Duke of Gloucester, and the last Yorkist king in England. From his death, the Tudors held the crown until the death of Queen Elisabeth I in 1603.

richard II of england
William Shakespeare

Richard’s reign could have been much more insignificant from a historical point of view if it hadn’t been for the play by William Shakespeare. The famous artist probably wrote his masterpiece somewhere around 1592 or 1593, more than a hundred years after the death of the King.

In his play, Shakespeare describes Richard as a hunchback with a limp and a withered arm. And from this point on, the King has always been described as someone with a deformed stature, small, and maybe with difficulty moving.

Shakespeare probably based his play on other literature from the 16th century, f.ex. History of King Richard III by Thomas More, Chronicles of England, Scottland, and Ireland by Raphael Holinshed, and others. 

What all these books have in common is that they are all very pro-Tudor. Shakespeare was depending on patronage, and one of his patrons was Ferdinando Stanley, also known as Lord Strange. Ferdinando was a direct descendant of Thomas Stanley, who played an important role in defeating Richard and putting the crown on Henry VII’s head. Apart from Shakespears obvious reasons to portray Richard in a way that pleased his employer, the general rule of history is that it is written by the winners, not by the losers. 

Richard III of England died in the battle of Bosworth in 1485. His death signified the end of the Wars of the Roses and marked the start of the Tudor age. He was also the last English King to die in battle in England. His successor was his opponent, Henry VII Tudor.

But was he a hunchback or not?

richard III of england
The skeleton of Richard III

In 2012 during excavations under a parking lot in Leicester, England, a skeleton was found that later was confirmed through DNA-tests to be that of the King. The curve of the KIng’s spine was immediately obvious to the researchers. It had a right-sided, spiral-shaped curve that peaked at thoracic vertebrae 8 and 9. The curve was well balanced, meaning that it got back in line by the time it hit his pelvis. As a result, his hips were even, and he should have had no problems breathing or moving.

He would have been of average length by that time, 5 feet, 8 inches (1.7 meters), but the curved spine would have taken a few inches off, thus making him shorter than average, but not much so. 

He would also have had his shoulders uneven so that his right scapula was slightly higher than the left one. The trunk was short in comparison to the length of his legs. 

The King probably didn’t have a limp and didn’t have a withered arm. The only thing you would have noticed was the uneven shoulder part, as the shorter trunk could easily have been disguised by clothing style and good tailors. He shouldn’t have been significantly obstructed in living an active life, something his participation in battles, as well as what we know about his biography, suggests.  

For once, the great Maestro, William Shakespear was completely wrong. Still, the play is a masterpiece, and it doesn’t necessarily picture the last York-King, but any political predator ready to sacrifice anything for his personal winning. It’s an important play today more than ever.

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No, King Richard III was not a limping hunchback, although he had a curved spine.